After three successive home wins in the Greene King IPA Championship season to date, Jersey Reds will turn their attention to gaining points on their travels this weekend.
The Reds lie fifth in the table in spite of losing both their away matches so far, albeit against table-toppers Newcastle Falcons and Ealing Trailfinders.
Saturday’s opponents Ampthill might not be as high-flying as the Falcons, but the division’s new-boys have shown they can compete at this level. A record of two wins and a draw in five outings so far leaves Ampthill in sixth place and eclipses the performance of most other promoted clubs in recent seasons, including the Reds in their maiden Championship season in 2012/13, which began with six straight defeats.
The visitors will also face the challenge of a new ground as they travel to Dillingham Park for the first time at 1st XV level.
The visitors’ starting XV shows five changes from the gutsy home win over Nottingham, where the Reds hauled themselves back into contention in the final 20 minutes to win 19-10.
Brendan Cope’s head injury assessment has ruled him out, so George Spencer comes into midfield, while recent loan signing Alex Morgan will start at right wing ahead of Jack Stapley, who moves to the bench.
The three other changes are in the pack: TJ Harris comes in at hooker in place of Jack Macfarlane, while both flankers are changed – Conor Joyce in place of Kyle Hatherell, and Josh Bainbridge taking the number 7 shirt, and the captaincy, from Max Argyle.
Argyle and Hatherell switch to the bench, which also includes a potential return to action for hooker Nic Dolly. Ongoing injury issues in the Jersey squad mean that Stapley and Will Homer are the only backline players among the replacements.
Although this is their first meeting in a regular-season league match, the two clubs have played several times at 2nd team level in recent seasons, as well as twice in 1st XV games.
At the end of the 2009/10 season, both clubs were champions of their respective divisions at level 5, then referred to as National 3, and after winning semi-finals they were paired on the grandest of rugby stages – Twickenham.
The encounter at ‘HQ’ was a memorable day, with the Reds winning a tight match by 21-12 thanks to tries by Ashley Elphinston, Ed Dawson and Ashley Maggs, plus two penalties from Dan Hawkes.
In August 2016 Ampthill travelled to Jersey for a pre-season fixture which was again tightly fought, with the Reds outscoring their opponents by five tries to three and winning 35-22.
Jersey Reds Athletic host Canterbury this weekend in a Raging Bull Shield match. Kick-off at Stade Santander International is at 1.30pm. The following day Jersey Reds Women travel to take on Kent side St Francis in the Women’s NC 2 South-East.
After a free weekend, Jersey Reds 1st XV will next be in action on Saturday November 30th when they entertain Hartpury University in a Championship Cup game at Stade Santander International, kicking off at 3pm.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ampthill & District (A) – Greene King IPA Championship Round 6/22, Dillingham Park, k-o 2.15pm
Josh Bainbridge (capt)
Nic Dolly, Harry Morley, Leeroy Atalifo, Kyle Hatherell, Jake Upfield, Will Homer, Max Argyle, Jack Stapley